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Prescription for Relief: One Woman's Experience with Intractable Nonmalignant Pain

Author(s):  Allen Loyd V Jr

Issue:  Sep/Oct 2005 - Pain Management
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Abstract:  Of all the challenges that have shaped the work of artist Karen Balzer, none is greater than her victory over chronic debilitating pain. Since 1991, Karen has suffered from total-body regional sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), a burning paresthesia that developed after spinal surgery. RSDS is an elusive entity. Its pathogenesis is unknown; it may involve a genetic component. Diagnosis and treatment are difficult. For years, Karen’s efforts to obtain relief from the chronic pain, which progressed slowly from her feet to the top of her head, were met with reserve and skepticism from physicians, who denied her analgesia. Compounding pharmacy eventually yielded the most effective solution. In this interview, Karen Balzer conveys a powerful message about the views of the United States medical establishment on providing narcotic drugs to relieve severe nonmalignant pain. She describes her ultimately successful quest for effective treatment as “a journey through doctor-hop hell.” Her experience is a cautionary


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